I was surprised to find that I enjoyed the first Into the Blue. It made good use of its beautiful beaches and underwater scenery, featured an entertaining cast, and packed in some surprisingly intense action (the final explosion pushes the movie's PG-13 rating). Logic dictates that if I wanted to watch Into the Blue again, I'd rent Into the Blue, but the producers of Into the Blue 2: The Reef are clearly hoping I'll watch this sequel instead, which is almost identical to the original, only dumber, without the Hollywood megastars and visibly cheaper.
Sebastian (Chris Carmack, less brick-brained than he looks on the DVD cover) and Dani (Laura Vandervoort, poor man's Charlize Theron) are personal diving instructors in one of those beachy, sunny places you see in movies, and although they look like models, have a rock-solid relationship, own their own business and have a comfortable home in said beachy, sunny place, they're unsatisfied -- they need something more. "More" means money and a bigger boat, so when a rich entrepreneur (David Anders, looking like a British Neil Patrick Harris) and his martial artist girlfriend Azra (Marsha Thomason) show up asking to hire them for a week, they jump at the chance. Unfortunately, while they claim to be looking for the same, nearly-mythical sunken ship Sebastian's been hunting his whole life, they're really looking for two mysterious boxes dumped by a dim lackey during a Coast Guard search, and if they don't find it soon, everyone will end up sleeping with the fishes. "It's that plain and simple," they explain, "except it's not so plain, nor so simple, is it?"
Right away, I noticed something unique about Into the Blue 2: the complete and utter shamelessness with which it rips off the original. Around 80% of the film is almost completely indistinguishable from the first movie: I'm guessing if anyone can detect a noticeable difference between the main characters in the two films other than their names and actors playing them, MGM will send them a special medal. Surprisingly, this DTV rehash was helmed by Stephen Herek, director of Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure (a personal favorite), and the Mark Wahlberg movie Rock Star. John Stockwell, director of the first picture, was the screenwriter of Rock Star, so maybe he recommended Herek for the job, but all Herek does is try to ape the first movie's cinematography, and despite the emerald oceans and underwater action, he doesn't have the personal connection that Stockwell (also the director of Blue Crush) seems to have to the ocean. Herek's compositions lack scope and style, his current idea of comedy is awful (an angry girlfriend yells faster and faster until she's literally fast-forwarded) and the rest of his directorial arsenal consists of beach volleyball shaky-cam and useless split-screen photography.
If you can look past the unoriginality, the movie's next problem isn't that the script or acting are particularly or outstandingly awful, but the combination of the two is an exercise in personal aggravation. I always hate it when radio voice over actors pretend to be on-the-street interviewees by attempting to recreate conversational imperfections, and Into the Blue 2 is painfully similar. The screenplay is packed with Generic Movie Dialogue, right down to the annoyingly "perfect" touches of cuteness and sarcasm, and Carmack and Vandervoort plow through it with sitcom efficiency. The result is a horrible, tone-deaf attempt to reverse-engineer energetic life and spontaneity where none has ever existed, and it grated on me from beginning to end.
The film is also populated by useless characters. The film wants to be date-friendly, so we meet Mace and Kimi (Michael Graziadei and Mircea Monroe, respectively). They're the comic relief couple: Mace keeps getting caught flirting, and Kimi throws his stuff out and challenges the flirters to catty volleyball games (hilarious!), and each time they fight or get in a wacky mishap, we get separate girl-talk/guy-talk bonding scenes with the same-sexed main character. Worse, rival diver Avery (Rand Holdren) seems to serve the same purpose as both of them, acting like a meathead and having girlfriend problems whenever he pops up, not to mention a secondary villain (Geoff Heise) who's got barely six minutes of screen time. The way these characters are all tied into the third act is extremely strained, and most of them could have been condensed or written out. I also learned while searching the net for the DVD back cover that Audrina Partridge, Parvati Shallow and Amanda Kimmel are actually stars of shows like "The Hills" and "Survivor" making useless cameo appearances. I didn't notice watching the movie, and now I'm stuck knowing it forever.
At least during the third act, things start to become unintentionally funny. There's a scene where it turns out that not one but four people are apparently hiding away on Sebastian's tiny boat (it's like a clown car), the world's quickest hypothermia recovery ever, a thug foiled by his inability to swim (clearly meant to be taken seriously) and some good, old-fashioned slow-motion, collapse-to-the-knees melodrama. The villainous plot is also ridiculous. There was a time when the "hired gun" bad guy mentality was interesting because it made them unpredictable. These days, it's a sign of screenwriter laziness: the filmmakers don't know why someone would want to nuke Hawaii, but neither does the character! People who like movies that proclaim themselves to be Unrated will also enjoy the pointless nudity and occasional language.
Watching Into the Blue 2, I had the sinking suspicion that I wasn't viewing a movie at all, but a movie-like paste ground up from the remains of an actual motion picture. This is a DVD designed to appear on Amazon, IMDb and Netflix as a movie You Might Like because you saw the original. Who knows, maybe someone out there will actually enjoy the movie for the nearly nonexistent qualities it has to offer, but you can probably hold off until they've got it in pill form. Movies are so much easier to digest that way.
The DVD, Video and Audio
20th Century Fox sent over one of their customary screener discs, so instead of the case, which should have white and blue artwork, I got a white paper sleeve. The upside is I don't have to be excruciatingly aggravated by the fact that they've placed the corresponding credits over the wrong people, which would be easily fixed by flipping the image, but people who design DVD cover artwork don't think like that.
Since I've got a screener, I also have no grade available for the video, because I don't think Fox wants me to grade the pixelated, watermarked image presented on this disc. The audio might be okay, and I've got lots to say about the terrible, terrible pop music peppering the soundtrack, but all the same, I'll hold off. The retail disc will feature a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer, 5.1 English audio and English subtitles. The menu is simple, but the weird colored-pencil look makes the movie seem like it's for three-year-olds. Not every menu can make you feel immature...
"Get Wet" (11:42) is the first of two featurettes, and I was shocked to find they were sort of...entertaining. Maybe my brain was just numbed by the feature film, but it's actually kind of fun watching the actors learn how to scuba-dive, talk about the challenges of filming underwater and interacting with the marine life. It's also surprising to see that the cast is fairly charismatic when they're not acting in a stupid movie. The other featurette, "Run For Your Life" (6:42) focuses on the movie's foot chase, and is equally likable, although Herek reveals he was trying to pay homage to Run Lola Run. Uh huh.
Lastly, "Back to the Beach" (1:40) is billed as a music video, but it's actually a short montage of B-roll from the beach volleyball scene. There is also a gallery of trailers, including The Betrayed, Dead Like Me: Life After Death (also by Herek) and Hit and Run. No theatrical trailer is included, nor do you get any subtitles or captions.
"Call me crazy, but this doesn't suck!" proclaims Sebastian. I disagree. Until someone invents a Sci-Fi (er, excuse me, SyFy) Channel counterpart that plays bad beach thrillers instead of bad mutant bug movies, you can definitely skip taking a dip in Into the Blue 2's low-budget waters.
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